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LSU Finds Completeness In Rout of A&M

By Matt Smith
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LSU's defense looked like the dominant unit it was expected to be and has been for most of this century.

After allowing 98 points over the past three weeks, albeit in wins by a combined margin of 62, LSU’s defense faced some difficult questions. With two other national title contenders in Clemson and Ohio State littered with superstars and super stats on both sides of the ball, was No. 2 LSU good enough to stop either offense without Joe Burrow and the offense putting up their usual 40 or more points?

No one will confuse Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, but for one game on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium’s, LSU's defense looked like the dominant unit it was expected to be and has been for most of this century.

Sure, Burrow was outstanding again, as he erased any doubt about whether or not he was a lock for the Heisman Trophy with 352 passing yards and a trio of touchdown passes on a short night of work, but Saturday night’s 50-7 Tigers win over the Aggies was about coordinator Dave Aranda’s defense.

Perhaps it was the opponent. After all, Texas A&M scored 74 points in a hotly-contested seven-overtime affair last season – a game LSU vowed to keep in the front of their minds throughout this past week. Unlike also-rans Arkansas and Ole Miss, the two prior opponents for LSU, Texas A&M was a formidable foe, having lost by just six points last Saturday at No. 4 Georgia.

Who thought Texas A&M would have more success against the mighty Georgia defense than it did against this shaky Tigers unit? In the first 30 minutes on Saturday night, Texas A&M managed just 40 yards on 26 plays. LSU scored touchdowns on its first four drives, and added a field goal just for good measure to build a 31-0 halftime lead.

What happened after halftime didn’t matter, as the Tigers were already on to their showdown with Georgia next week in the SEC Championship Game, but LSU sacked Mond for the fourth time on the first play of the second half. That Aggies drive actually decreased their total yards for the game from 40 to 35. A late safety allowed LSU to hang half a hundred on the last team it lost to some 53 weeks ago. The Aggies finished with just 169 total yards despite the outcome being decided in the second quarter.

What a far cry from a fortnight ago, when and Ole Miss team that finished 4-8 put up 614 yards on the Tigers. Like that game, LSU didn’t need its defense to beat Texas A&M. Unlike that game, LSU’s defense played like Les Miles was still the coach when allowing 20 points in a big game was a recipe for defeat.

LSU got routine pressure on Mond, while its defensive backs draped a solid group of Aggies receivers like only LSU defensive backs seem to do. The offense cooked, as usual, and LSU delivered its most complete performance of the season by a wide margin. Texas A&M’s defense allowed it to hang around with Clemson and Georgia, and its offense moved the ball on Alabama, but both units had zero answers for LSU.

As for next week, Georgia had become a trendy pick to be the elixir for LSU. The Bulldogs have a defense even better than the Auburn unit that held the Tigers to its season-low 23 points, but unlike Auburn, they have a 40-game starting quarterback instead of a true freshman who wouldn’t make the big mistake.

As the great Lee Corso says, not so fast, my friend.

Of course, this will still be a challenging week in Baton Rouge. The Tigers whipped Georgia last year in Baton Rouge, so there aren’t the constant questions and focus on demons to exorcise like there were against Alabama during the two-week hype to that game earlier this month.

However, LSU will likely have to contend with a major talking point this week being that the Tigers are in the College Football Playoff regardless of how they fare in Atlanta. That’s nails on a chalkboard for Ed Orgeron and the LSU coaching staff as they try to win the program’s first SEC title since 2011.

One problem Orgeron won’t have to combat is a defense lacking any confidence or swagger or whatever the cool kids like to call it. LSU’s defense expects to shut down Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift like it did in the 36-16 win Tigers win in 2018. After Saturday night, maybe the rest of us should expect that as well.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.